Evaluating the Simulated Seasonality of Soil Moisture with Earth Observation Data

Richard J. Ellis Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Crowmarsh Gifford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

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Christopher M. Taylor Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Crowmarsh Gifford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

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Graham P. Weedon Met Office Hadley Centre (Joint Centre of Hydrometeorological Research), Wallingford, Oxon, United Kingdom

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Nicola Gedney Met Office Hadley Centre (Joint Centre of Hydrometeorological Research), Wallingford, Oxon, United Kingdom

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Douglas B. Clark Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Crowmarsh Gifford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

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Sietse Los University of Wales, Swansea, United Kingdom

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Abstract

A critical function of a land surface scheme, used in climate and weather prediction models, is to partition the energy from insolation into sensible and latent heat fluxes. Many use a soil moisture function to control the surface moisture fluxes through the transpiration. The validity and global distribution of the parameters used to calculate this soil moisture stress function are difficult to assess.

This work presents a method to map soil moisture stress globally from an earth observation vegetation index and precipitation data, and it compares the resulting distributions with output from the Joint U.K. Land Environment Simulator (JULES) land surface scheme. A number of model runs with different soil and vegetation parameters are compared. These examine the sensitivity of the seasonality of soil moisture stress, within the model, to the parameterization of soil hydraulic properties and the seasonality of leaf area index in the vegetation.

It is found that the seasonality of soil moisture within the model is more sensitive to the soil hydraulic properties than the leaf area index. The partitioning of throughfall into evaporation and runoff, in the model, is the dominant factor in determining the timing of soil moisture stress.

Corresponding author address: Richard Ellis, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Maclean Building, Crowmarsh Gifford, OX10 8BB, United Kingdom. Email: rjel@ceh.ac.uk

Abstract

A critical function of a land surface scheme, used in climate and weather prediction models, is to partition the energy from insolation into sensible and latent heat fluxes. Many use a soil moisture function to control the surface moisture fluxes through the transpiration. The validity and global distribution of the parameters used to calculate this soil moisture stress function are difficult to assess.

This work presents a method to map soil moisture stress globally from an earth observation vegetation index and precipitation data, and it compares the resulting distributions with output from the Joint U.K. Land Environment Simulator (JULES) land surface scheme. A number of model runs with different soil and vegetation parameters are compared. These examine the sensitivity of the seasonality of soil moisture stress, within the model, to the parameterization of soil hydraulic properties and the seasonality of leaf area index in the vegetation.

It is found that the seasonality of soil moisture within the model is more sensitive to the soil hydraulic properties than the leaf area index. The partitioning of throughfall into evaporation and runoff, in the model, is the dominant factor in determining the timing of soil moisture stress.

Corresponding author address: Richard Ellis, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Maclean Building, Crowmarsh Gifford, OX10 8BB, United Kingdom. Email: rjel@ceh.ac.uk

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